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Creation of pancreatic cells from liver stem cells possible diabetes treatment.

Researchers have coaxed adult rat liver stem cells to form insulin-producing pancreatic cells, a feat that raises the possibility of using a person's own cells to treat diabetes and eliminating the need for daily insulin injections.

While the research is a long way from the clinic, it suggests that adult stem cells have far greater flexibility than previously believed, according to Lijun Yang, PhD of the University of Florida at Gainesville.

In type 1 (insulin-dependent) diabetes, the immune system attacks the insulin-producing islet cells in the pancreas, leading to low or nonexistent levels of the sugar-regulating hormone. To recover from the condition, the body needs to replenish its supply of islet cells. Based on the knowledge that liver and pancreatic cells arise from the same pool of embryonic cells, Yang and coinvestigators extracted stem cells from the livers of adult rats and cultured them in a high-sugar environment designed to mimic the conditions of the pancreas. After a short time, the cells began to differentiate and produce insulin. And within 10 days of implanting the cells into the pancreata of rats with diabetes, blood sugar levels returned to normal, the researchers reported in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Because previous research has shown that bone marrow stem cells can give rise to liver stem cells, the scientists speculated that a person's own bone marrow cells might be used to treat diabetes.

"If bone marrow-derived stem cells can give rise to insulin-producing cells, then the bone marrow stem cells from patients with type 1 diabetes may be used as a source to obtain their own insulin-producing cells," Yang said.

Though the research is tantalizing, it is unclear how effective these cells ultimately will be at reversing diabetes in animal models of the disease-and how long their therapeutic effect will last.

"A major question is whether one injection of cells will last a lifetime, or whether several injections will be needed," said Yang, adding that it is unknown whether the liver cells have permanently changed to pancreatic cells or eventually will revert back.

The researchers also must verify that transplanting the liver-derived cells does not cause tumors or other side effects.
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Comment:Creation of pancreatic cells from liver stem cells possible diabetes treatment.(Brief Article)
Publication:Transplant News
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 14, 2002
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